Formed in 2007, London based The Dogbones are regulars on the live scene and have earned themselves quite a following as a result, expanded further by the release of their self titled album in 2010. On vocals and dabbling in guitar is the feisty and fashion forward Nomi Leonard, a dedicated vegetarian – can’t get more animal friendly than having a dog named Cabbage! Check out the chat she had with SaveAScream.com below.
By Emily Clarkson
Emily Clarkson: You have a song called ‘The Whole World is Weird’. What’s the weirdest band-related experience that you’ve ever had?
Nomi Leonard: Hmm, there are so many. Being a human is weird; being in a band is just ridiculous. Weird band related stuff; playing Japan - it’s like travelling though a circuit board. One night after a gig Johnny fell flat on his face wasted at 5am. Trying to hail a cab covered in blood was pointless, finally we get to the hospital and they treated us like axe murderers, they were actually frightened of us, shaking and everything. He got five stitches and lost two teeth and I got kicked out the hospital for taking pictures. We were followed by the biggest crows I’ve ever seen all the way back to the hotel. They were really watching us. He had to do a photo shoot over there with a smashed face. I think they assumed we’d been fighting or something, but he just fell over, haha.
EC: What’s the weirdest non-band related experience you’ve had?
NL: Erm… I dunno, it’s all band related, my life revolves around my music… erm… you probably don’t want to hear about mushroom trips and there’s a lot of really out there dark stuff that I don’t really want to talk about… oh I know, so while I’m on crows - once, a dwarf woman with no arms and a man with a box of mummified crows knocked at my door. They told me they’d seen us move in and thought I might like to join in on a funeral for the crows which they had just cleared out of their chimney. The crows had been trapped in the chimney before they moved in and had been mummified by the heat and smoke, which is obviously very sad. I invited them in; we dressed up in black netting, drank to the crows and had a funeral for them. After a while we realise that the crows were infested with tiny little bugs and we were covered in them. A couple of days later one of us got impetigo, but it’s the thought that counts and I appreciated the gesture….
EC: You’ve talked in previous interviews about your love for playing guitar – reflected onstage on occasion when you step back from the mic and leave vocals to bandmate Johnny so you can play. You also have said that you find singing and playing guitar at the same time inhibiting. What is it about playing live that makes you want to move around and physically get into the music so much?
NL: The same thing that make you want to dance to it. It’s a primal urge, since the dawn of time people have been banging drums and moving their bodies to rhythm. It’s natural and it feels unnatural to me not to do it. I love playing my guitar and I love to move and enjoy the music. It transcends you to another place. It has nothing to do with ‘real life’. IT’S FUN.
EC: The band plays a lot of shows, but only has one full length album out. Do you feel providing an awesome live experience is more important than having a back catalogue of material?
NL: Yes, quality over quantity haha, but we’re working on our next album right now. We take our time because we want to make sure the songs on the first record reach as many people as they can before we move on from them.
EC: ‘The Dogbones’ came out in 2010, even though you’ve been a band since 2007. When can you see your next record coming out? Is there anything you’d like it to have that your self-titled album didn’t?
NL: The next record will be out sometime this year. Anything I’d like it to have that the first one didn’t? Yeah, some kinda success.
EC: Having two drummers is something rarely seen in a band. You’ve said you have two drummers as you wanted a more tribal sound. Do you think more bands need to do something original like this and what did the drummers themselves think of the idea when you decided to have two of them? Are there any drawbacks to having two drummers?
NL: I don’t care what other bands do. I don’t like to think about that. The drummers love it because it’s all about the rhythm and their clatter, and I can’t see any drawbacks… well, we can’t fit them on most drum risers and we can’t play venues with limiters because we’re too loud, but so what?
EC: ‘Give Us A Kiss’ seems to be a song suggesting a less than pleasant view of the music industry. ‘We shape you musically, to fit successfully’ screams the feeling that bands are engineered to become a certain way just to make money and be popular. Do you feel there’s not enough genuine bands around that haven’t fallen ill to this crafting and change by the industry?
NL: It’s not really like that anymore… for rock bands in this country anyway. There’s no label bigwigs interfering with bands anymore because there’s no money left to sign them so they don’t give a fuck about rock music anymore. It’s become a bygone age that Johnny is very familiar with. Now you can apply it to the X Factor acts of today instead, which does indeed make me want to puke… or you could apply it to band wagon jumpers…
EC: You’ve made a video for your song ‘All Your Friends (Are Going To Kill You)’. Can you tell us about the meaning of that song?
NL: You know, they don’t mean to but they keep coming over and getting fucked up and they never stop, so neither do you and they keep coming and they break your bog and fuck your shit up and you don’t want to tell them to fuck off because they’re your friends but if you don’t, you’ll probably end up dead.
EC: Have you ever done anything that made any of your friends want to kill you?
NL: No not really… oh except Matt, the guitarist from my old band. It was so stupid. We shared a room like Bert and Ernie. He tried to strangle me one night because he was trying to sleep and I wouldn’t stop whispering to a friend. I had to punch him in the face to get him off me... nothing like being throttled in the dark by your best friend.
EC: Your sound is often cited as grunge, punk and garage rock. Do you think genres such as grunge, punk and garage rock have evolved over the years, and what do you think The Dogbones bring to the genre that other bands don’t have?
NL: Well, a genre is just a pigeon hole to say something sounds like something else. If the sound has changed, it’s called something else, isn’t it? Someone will make up another name, and then another one. What does The Dogbones bring to grunge, punk and garage rock that other bands don’t? You tell me. Because if I told you, I’d be a dick.
EC: From pictures, it is obvious you have a very cool, edgy and individual style. How do your views on animal rights affect your fashion? Is it easy to ensure your clothing is animal friendly?
NL: Yeah. It’s really easy because I mostly make and recycle my own clothes or buy from animal charity shops. Fake leather studded bracelets I get from animal rights fairs. It’s really easy to wear animal friendly clothes; it’s the makeup that I have to make a little effort for. Trying to find inexpensive, wild colours can be tricky so when I find something I like, I always buy three. MAC cosmetics are cruelty free and do great foundations.
EC: Are any of your bandmates vegetarian or vegan? Do they share your views against animal cruelty?
NL: Johnny and I are vegetarian and vegan but the rest are not, however they respect my feelings and The Dogbones rider is always meat free.
EC: Did music in anyway influence your vegetarianism? Were there any bands or artists that inspired you who promoted those ideals?
NL: Music influenced me a lot while I was growing up; I was drawn to bands that sing about being beat down and treated unfairly – injustice. It’s easy to apply that to animals. My mother is vegan. I remember her making banners to protest the conditions the sheep where shipped to Ireland in. Listening to Nirvana, though Kurt wasn’t a vegetarian, I respected his views on sexism and racism and to me; cruelty to animals was and still is as relevant.
EC: Has your vegetarianism ever or do you think it ever will influence any of your music? It’s noted you in fact have two songs with animals in the title – ‘Hey Chihuahua’ and ‘Dead Kev Crow’! Can you tell us about those two songs and their meanings?
NL: I have written lyrics about animal cruelty, lines here and there. I really should write a whole song about it. The next song I write will be wholly dedicated to this subject. 'Hey Chihuahua' is another one of Johnny’s; it’s about someone who thinks they’re more important than they really are. We just did a video for it and we got our dog Cabbage in it, she had a blast. I love her more than anyone I know. 'Dead Kev Crow' is about my old manager (of Wendykurk). His name was Kev Crow. He was a wonderful man who lived in a cottage on a hill in the middle of a forest; he made a huge aviary for sick birds including two crows with broken wings. He died of stomach cancer; he was frightened and behaved badly before the end.
EC: As mentioned you have a song called ‘Dead Kev Crow’... obviously crows are birds… What sort of life do you imagine birds having – those living in trees, outside, flying around – as opposed to say, birds like budgies, canaries or parrots that are kept in cages?
NL: Hey there’s a bit of an unintentional crow theme in this interview! Birds are amazing creatures and they are designed to fly. Unless they’re sick or injured or in danger, there’s no reason to keep them cooped up. It’s just tragic. It’s like taking a person’s arms and legs just to keep them from leaving you. Clipping a birds wings is like that film ‘Misery’.
EC: Also, this year it was in the paper that one of the Royal Family was having 250 birds to shoot for his birthday. What do you think about how the Royal Family shoot animals/birds? – And especially when the Queen is supposedly the patron of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)? Is she hypocritical to be a patron when she partakes in the shooting of animals?
NL: Total hypocrite and I think you have to be kind of sick to want to kill for sport or to celebrate. It’s perverse, and being Welsh I’m really ashamed of the Prince of Wales for condoning fox hunting.
EC: Which animal rights organisations are you particularly interested in? And which animal cruelty activities should be abolished? If you could rule the UK and ban one animal cruelty activity what would it be?
NL: PETA are fantastic. A friend of mine works for them and lets me know about protests and fairs. I really love what Sea Shepherd do too. Their hands on approach is amazing. They ram, sabotage and sink whaling ships around the world. Obviously all animal cruelty should be illegal. Badger and fox hunting really upsets me. If I were Queen, I’d abolish that in a heartbeat. Oh, and battery hens – Jesus, those poor things. And making and selling foie gras… I’ll just go on and on, I can’t pick one. It breaks my heart there are so many to choose from.
EC: Have you got a favourite vegetarian snack, meal or restaurant which you’d recommend to other veggies out there?
NL: Loving Hut in Camden… it’s great, really yummy and you pay what you can afford. All vegan, really friendly and they hand out DVDs on animal rights and the environment for you to pass around your friends to educate and enlighten each other.
EC: There are a lot of people out there who might be interested in becoming vegetarian but feel it would be difficult to find a good variety of food, maybe mistakenly think it’s unhealthy or think they might not be able to keep it up. What advice or information would you give them?
NL: For a start Quorn is a fantastic meat substitute for the weary new veggie and proven to be healthier for you than meat, though it’s not vegan as it contains egg. It’s really easy to swap meat for Quorn. Soya is great too because it’s totally animal product free, so versatile and really cheap, and let’s face it, everyone’s skint right now so it’s the perfect time to give it a try. There are so many vegetarian products out there now; there are whole aisles in the super market dedicated to it. There’s really no excuse. I really love falafel, it’s so easy and cheap to make your own - 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, 1 finely chopped small onion, 1crushed clove garlic, 400g can chickpeas (washed and drained), 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander (or use more cumin), a handful parsley chopped, or 1 tsp dried mixed herbs, 1 egg, beaten (or egg substitute for vegan), mush it all together and fry! I make my own soups and pies all the time too. Chickpeas, beans and lentils are so versatile – burgers, dips, soups – the possibilities are endless. My dog LOVES them, she also really loves veg. Her favourite is steamed broccoli. If you have a garden, I advise you to make use of it. It’s incredibly satisfying to grow your own vegetables, or let a green fingered neighbour make use of it and do the work for you, then share the bounty! Also consider rescuing an ex battery hen, after a few weeks of care, they’ll lay legs for you and be great little friends.
EC: Finally, if people are looking to check you out, what’s the one song which you feel totally sums up The Dogbones, your sound and what you’re all about?
NL: I don’t think we’re written it yet…maybe ‘Hey Chihuahua’ - don’t take yourself too seriously.